Police union and city representatives disagree on ‘reset’ of employment agreement

The amount of authority that city and police officials have is shaping up to be a key issue in the ongoing negotiations between the city and the local police officers union.

At a meeting Thursday afternoon between representatives for the city and the Lawrence Police Officers Association, City Manager Tom Markus said he is trying to “reset” the agreement and move away from unwritten practices between the city and the LPOA.

“What we are suggesting is this document should be the embodiment of everything between the two of us,” Markus said.

But LPOA representatives said they were concerned that the wording of one of the city’s proposals equated to a waiver of the union’s rights to bargain changes to officers’ working conditions. At issue was a proposal from the city for the new employment agreement to state that it is the controlling document superseding all previous agreements and “all existing unwritten practices between the city and the LPOA.”

LPOA Chairman Drew Fennelly said there is a potential for many unwritten practices to occur, and that he thinks it is unreasonable for the LPOA to agree to waive and essentially abandon any unwritten practices that it already has in place.

“What that is essentially saying is that it will default to the position of the city,” Fennelly said. “… We can’t agree to any language waiving past practices occurring between the city and our organization.”

Markus said that management has the authorization to make certain changes, and that if the LPOA wants an unwritten practice to be added to the agreement, the city and the LPOA would both have to agree to add it.

Fennelly said that there has to be an opportunity for the union to bargain changes. After caucusing in private, the LPOA proposed that the words “and all existing unwritten practices” be stricken from the proposal. Markus said the city would consider it.

The city’s employment agreement with the LPOA covers wages, benefits and working conditions for officers and detectives and expires at the end of this year. Thursday’s meeting was the second open meeting between city and LPOA representatives to discuss the agreement.

Still to be negotiated is the increase in the police department’s pay plan. The LPOA is proposing that the pay grade for police officers and detectives increase by 5.5 percent next year in order to keep pace with comparable positions in peer cities. The city is in the process of conducting a market study of police salaries and will bring its proposal forward once the study is complete. The study is scheduled to be complete by June 8.

The next meeting between the city and the LPOA will be from 3 to 6 p.m. June 6 at City Hall, 6 E. Sixth St.


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